"Orders of Accountability," prepared for presentation at World Ethics Forum on Leadership, Ethics and Integrity in Public Life, 9-11 April 2006, Keble College, University of Oxford, UK
Powerpoint presentation here.
In the following pages I engage in what can best be called a “speculative exercise” in concept building and testing. It is clearly a “draft” version of a work in progress, but also much less. In some respects, it reflects an early (but not the earliest) stage in the strange process through which I tend to develop and test ideas about accountability.
The stimulus for this exercise was a growing sense that general approaches to accountability – including my own – failed to deal with several key structural aspects of accountable governance. Scanning the literature on accountability reveals that it takes a variety of structural forms -- as an action (holding one to account), a social relationship between and account giver and account receiver, a setting within which accountable actions occur, a moral attribute of an accountable individual, etc. The challenge is how to frame these various structural manifestations of accountability in an analytically fruitful way.
The occasion for developing such a potential framework emerged as I was engaged in two distinct projects, one related to corporate governance and the other focused on school accountability. Despite the considerable differences between these two arenas, they shared a similar pattern of accountability-related problems and reforms. Both the differences and similarities of the two arenas proved helpful as the outlines of the “orders of accountability” framework began to take shape. The framework, now a bit more developed, is ready for a “test drive” to see if it holds any promise.